In thinking about the people I know or know about who seem to be extremely happy, I’ve noticed one thing they all seem to have in common: they all seem to be “okay” with almost anything happening. In other words, they aren’t afraid of what might happen in the future, they aren’t filled with regret about the past, and they aren’t too concerned with the discrepancy between the way things are and the way things could be.
Each of these has a different take on things, however. For example:
- Some of them have a religious belief that there is a God who loves them and is taking care of everything. They believe that life may have ups and downs, but in the end, everything is going to be downright wonderful — they have found out a deep truth about the universe and are part of it, they will live forever in a wonderful place, and there will be no end to enjoying the delights of the universe. The bad things that may happen in the short term are part of a bigger picture which involves their every desire being fulfilled.
- Others believe that we live forever through reincarnation or through some other extension of life beyond this one. They believe that the purpose of life is to learn and grow to be better and better beings. All of the bad things that happen in life are in reality opportunities to learn and grow. In this way, life is like a giant training program, helping us reach higher and higher forms of existence.
- Still others believe that the only thing that is “real” is the present moment. The future and the past are illusions — only the present moment exists. Additionally, the idea that each individual has a separate unique existence is incorrect, and everything is a part of the same whole. They believe then that there is only this present experience, right now — there is no past or future, and no self. Therefore, there is nothing to worry about or regret, and no “self” to “have things” or “have problems”.
I can see how each of these could lead to happiness. In effect, with each of these, things are great, and they are great whatever might happen in life.
Well I would like to be extremely happy as well (of course!), and “being okay with anything” seems to lead to happiness. There is just one problem, which is that I don’t believe that any of the above beliefs are… actually true. It’s not that I don’t want to believe them (they all sound very nice), it’s just that I think the evidence is against them, believing in science and its findings as I do.
So a few days ago I decided to try just imaging that I am okay with anything happening, without any belief system backing it up. Whenever I would have an anxious thought about something bad happening, I would just try to imagine that I was fine with any worst-case scenario happening. Including, for example, such normally unspeakable things as: being murdered on the street on my way home from school, people I love dying, forgetting my own name during introductions at an important school meeting, having other people hate me, losing my vision, etc., etc.
I’ve found in the past that there is often a sort of “beginner’s luck” when trying a new technique for feeling good. By this, I mean that I sometimes hear about a new technique, imagine that it might just work, try it out, and find that amazingly it does seem to work. It works for a short time, that is, and then seems to lose its effectiveness with further use. This makes me suspect that just believing in a technique might make it work, even if there isn’t really anything to it.
Having said that, I did actually find that doing this “imagining that I’m okay with anything happening” seemed to work — incredibly well, actually. I found that I could actually convince myself that I was okay with anything happening, and I found myself feeling… really happy. In fact, the first two days of trying this I felt happier than I’ve felt in a long time, and even walked around with a ridiculous grin on my face some of the time.
I said this worked the first two days. Well, now I’m in day three, and I have to say it hasn’t been working so well today, so far. Nothing big, but basically a lot of anxiety has come back, and I haven’t been able to get rid of it with this technique, or get that great feeling back.
So unsurprisingly, this technique isn’t an easy, magical technique that makes you suddenly feel great for the rest of time. But given how I felt the first two days of trying it, I feel like there may just be something to it.